June 24, 2021

House Approves Bill Restricting N.L.R.B.

Republicans denounced the labor board’s case against Boeing, asserting that the board is overreaching its authority and should not be trying to tell companies where they can locate their operations. But many Democrats and their union allies condemned the legislation, asserting that the bill undercuts an independent federal agency and favors Boeing, a potent lobbying force and prominent political donor.

Under the bill, an unusual effort to halt a federal agency’s actions in a pending case, the labor board would be barred from seeking to have an employer shut, transfer or relocate employment or operations “under any circumstances.”

The bill, called “The Protecting Jobs from Government Interference Act,” is expected to face an uphill battle in the Democratic-led Senate. In the House vote on Thursday, the partisan divide was clear: only 8 Democrats voted for the bill and only 7 Republicans voted against it.

Republicans have repeatedly criticized the complaint that the board’s acting general counsel filed against Boeing last April, which accused the company of building an assembly line in North Charleston, S.C., as a form of retaliation against unionized Boeing employees in Washington State who had engaged in five strikes since 1977, including a 58-day-walkout in 2008. The National Labor Relations Act prohibits companies from taking any actions, whether firing employees or relocating a factory, against workers for exercising federally protected rights that include forming a union or going on strike.

Republicans asserted that the N.L.R.B.’s move was causing some foreign companies to think twice about opening operations in the United States, while Democrats maintained that the bill would speed the exodus of American jobs overseas.

Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican who is chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said: “This legislation represents an important step in the fight to get our jobs back on track. It tells job creators they don’t have to worry about an activist N.L.R.B. telling them where they can locate their business.”

But Representative Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat, said the bill “would be devastating to workers across this country.”

“It makes it easier to shift jobs overseas,” he said. “It eliminates the only remedy to force companies to bring back work from overseas. This ‘Outsourcers’ Bill of Rights’ is not only bad for the interests of workers, it’s bad for the economy at large.”

The board’s critics say the Boeing case favors heavily unionized states over right-to-work states and unionized workers over nonunion workers. Critics often blame President Obama, noting that it was brought by an official he appointed.

The Boeing case is pending before an administrative law judge, who is to decide whether to order Boeing to move the South Carolina production line, which assembles 787 Dreamliners, to Washington State. The House bill has a retroactivity clause that would bar the labor board from seeking an order to have Boeing transfer the assembly line to Washington State.

Republicans argued that the bill would only remove one remedy of the dozen in the N.L.R.B.’s arsenal. They say that the board can pursue other actions, among them ordering the company to post a notice saying it has acted illegally or to pay back pay. The opening of the assembly line in South Carolina has not caused any layoffs of Boeing workers in Washington State, but it might soon layoff more than 1,000 there as the new plant gets up to speed.

The labor board’s acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, issued a statement on Wednesday saying his decision to file a complaint against Boeing “was based on a careful investigation and a review of the facts under longstanding federal labor law.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=3c630fe7719058124b99ca6d32592ea9

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